These days, just about any information you’re looking for can be found on the Internet through public record research. While these records have always been publicly available, with the evolution of the Internet we can now simply log on to a website to conduct research that used to take hours and hours of legwork.
Now admit it – you’ve probably tried to research someone online before… maybe an old friend or a long-lost cousin (hopefully you’re not stalking – because I would never condone that). Usually what will happen is that some website pops up asking you to “Click Here” to find out everything you want to know about your subject. For a fee.
Don’t get suckered into paying a fee! Why pay for information that you can get free of charge, if you know where to look? Following are just some of the resources at your disposal that don’t cost a dime.
1) Business Records
To look up information about a corporation, an LLC, or other business entity, most states offer searches through the Secretary of State’s office. You can find out what the business structure is, the status (active, suspended or dissolved), the name and address of the registered agent for service of process, the name of the primary officer(s) and the address of the business. Many databases will also show any UCC liens filed against the company. For sole proprietorships or standard partnerships (DBA – or “Doing Business As”) try searching in a specific county. These records are typically maintained by the County Clerk.
2) Court Records
Many states offer online access to all manner of court records. Civil cases, traffic records (even parking tickets), family court records and bankruptcy filings are all public record. Some states offer statewide access, while others only offer access in specific counties. Bankruptcy filings are searchable through US District courts.
3) Criminal Records, Inmates and Arrest Warrants
If you’ve ever wondered or worried if someone has a criminal record, is in jail, is a registered sex offender or has outstanding warrants – there are many databases that allow you to investigate this for yourself. Most of these databases are state specific and searchable either by county or statewide. Federal inmates are searchable through the Federal Bureau of Prisons. You can also search databases to find immigration detainees and interstate probationers and parolees.
4) Property Records
Property records are searchable by the county the property is located in. You can usually conduct a search by the owner’s name or the property address. Information about properties will typically include current and previous owners, real estate transactions, the assessed value of the property, the parcel number and any existing liens on the property. These records are made available through the County Tax Assessor and/or the County Recorder’s office.
5) Professional Licenses
There are hundreds of professions which require licensing through the state. Among these are accountants, doctors, barbers and cosmetologists, child care providers, auto repair facilities, pharmacists, nurses, contractors – and many, many more. You can search for information about a person or company through the states’ Department of Consumer Affairs or State Licensing Board.
6) Voter Registrations
Voter registration records can help you to identify the whereabouts of anyone who routinely votes. You can even search to identify federal campaign contributors. Some counties keep independent voter registration databases, but most states keep these records through the Secretary of State’s office. If you’re starting to feel a little paranoid – don’t worry! These databases typically only give the voter’s polling place – not the voter’s home address.
7) Death Records
Death records are tracked by the Social Security Administration’s Death Index, although some counties will offer records specific to a certain county, which are maintained by the county coroner. There are even databases listing deceased persons who are ‘unclaimed’ for whom a next of kin could not be found, as well as those that list cold case homicides.
8) Aviation Records
If the subject of your search is a pilot, or owns an aircraft, you can use the Federal Aviation Administration’s database to search by the owner or pilot’s name or aircraft “N” number.
9) Other Federal Records
FDIC bank locator; active duty military personnel; ham radio licenses; Banks Mega Search (information on active/extinct banks due to merger, acquisition, name change or failure); cults; federal employees; interstate truckers/companies; IRS recognized charities; nursing homes; unclaimed/lost US savings bonds – and many more.
Okay, so that’s a lot of information, and it’s really just the tip of the iceberg! You could spend hours searching for all of these independently, but I recommend using a public records “portal,” such as Black Book Online. It’s FREE. Remember, if a site wants you to pay for this information – click away.